The Law of Conservation
The same amount of matter exists
before and after it is changed,
the chemistry teacher explains.
If matter cannot be destroyed
the eyelash fluttering from your
butterfly kiss can become a tear
can shutter itself in a nautilus
and be the “I love you” voice
in a conch echoing the whole ocean
can enclose the entire quantum
roulette of our days, a View Master
of nandina bushes fringing our
shotgun shack in Montgomery,
a pitcher of sweet tea on hothouse
porches, me always thinking that
noticing changes in matter should be
the adjunct of natural breath, you sure
we’d have no need of poems if
this were true. I go to sleep one night
under the whole gleaming mass of stars
and rise a constellation of liver spots
my heart still beating like a Ramma
Jamma Yella Hamma, my ear pressed
to the conch, beating honey I am
I am I am
Home Schooling My Son
Cerberus starts to sound like cerebral
to whatever hounds my brain
as I hover in his cubby
poring the sanitized mythology lesson
only a superintendent could love.
At vocabulary time, I become
my own conundrum tickling
the tongue. What a fun word.
We should write it, not in cursive,
50 times on the chalkboard.
I’ll teach him not to burn his bridges
even though I myself never know
quite when I’ve gone a bridge
too far. These sad, permeable
maternal membranes, these spongy
tensile things that string us
together and that can hang us
separately, jangle-clang just like
Pavlov’s bells in our closed skulls,
enraging the ganglia. Another day.
All work and no play
makes Jack a dull boy.
In “normal” times, I sack lunch it,
childproof it, round-tip scissors it,
pack the canvas chairs to watch
kiddie sports he’s always lousy at.
He’s just flossing the dull marginal gloss
of my toothless, ineffectual hopes for
him, so much stacked-up calculus.
This inamorata of inertia, these still.
still days—even in the normal times—
these still things with blunted edges
are the ones that can hurt you.
Pamela Sumners’ work has been published or recognized by about 50 journals or publishing houses in the US and abroad in 2018-21. She was a 2018 Pushcart nominee and was selected by Halcyone/Black Mountain Press for inclusion in 64 Best Poets of 2018 and 2019. Her first poetry collection, Ragpicking Ezekiel’s Bones, was published by UnCollected Press in December 2020. Her first chapbook, Finding Helen, a winner in the Rane Arroyo Series of Seven Kitchens Press, was released in 2021. Sumners is well known for her constitutional and civil rights legal work, including cases opposing Jay Sekulow, Ten Commandments Judge Roy Moore, Supreme Court wannabe Bill Pryor, and an Alabama governor who argued that the Bill of Rights doesn’t apply to Alabama. She formerly worked as an ACLU volunteer lawyer, the director of the LGBT Project at the ACLU of Illinois, and the executive director of a women’s rights organization. A native Alabamian, she now lives in St. Louis with her wife, trans son, and rescue dogs. Pamela’s publications and honors can be found at her author page, www.pamelalsumners.com.